"This book is a very readable and accurate account of the important and controversial matters surrounding the Course. With careful research and journalistic skill, Patrick Miller weaves together an 'on the edge of your seat' story."— Lee Jampolsky PhD, author of Healing the Addictive Personality
"...a balanced, reliable, well-writtten report on the spiritual teaching that's made a miraculous difference in so many lives.... this is the 'other' book that every Course student should own." — Joan Borysenko PhD, author of Your Soul's Compass and Minding the Body, Mending the Mind
the indispensable guide to
a great teaching of our times
Published in 1976, the mysterious teaching known as A Course in Miracles has changed the lives of millions with its uncompromising discipline of profound forgiveness. In 2019, the New York Times identified the Course as an “esoteric bible that has gone mainstream” — providing guidance and inspiration to the rapidly growing number of people who think of themselves as “spiritual but not religious.”
Drawn from over thirty years of original research, interviews, and personal study, Understanding A Course in Miracles: The History, Message, and Legacy of a Profound Spiritual Path provides the most reliable overview of the Course available today. Updated from the first edition published in 2008, this Second Edition details the remarkable Course history, summarizes its central messages, and provides an exhaustive review of the Course legacy by surveying both critics and the most knowledgeable teachers of the path. Preview here.
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T A B L E O F C O N T E N T S
Part I: Origins and History
Chapter 1: How the Course Came to Be
Chapter 2: Who Were Schucman and Thetford?
Chapter 3: How the Course Teaching Has Spread
Part II: The Message of the Course
Chapter 4: Toward a New Definition of Miracles
Chapter 5: Forgiving What Did Not Occur
Chapter 6: From Special to Holy Relationships
Chapter 7: Living in an Unreal World
Part III: A Provocative Legacy
Chapter 8: Where Psychology Meets the Perennial Philosophy
Chapter 9: Why the Course Is Not Christian—Or Is It?
Chapter 10: Secular Critiques of the Course
Chapter 11: The Presence of the Course
Appendix: "A Comparison of Miracles" by Richard Smoley
(an analysis of the Standard and alternative editions)
Excerpt from Chapter 1, "How the Course Came to Be":
Columbia University in 1965 was probably not the sort of place one would have expected to find the mystical stirrings of spiritual renewal. In the College of Physicians and Surgeons, the psychology professors’ struggle to affirm their discipline as a respectable branch of medical science went forward, attended by the usual amount of professional jealousy, fierce competition, and outright backbiting.
In the midst of this chaotic march of scientific progress, Dr. William N. Thetford, the reticent and scholarly director of the psychology department of the Columbia-Presbyterian Medical Center, one day decided that he’d had enough of the academic sparring. “There must be another way, and I’m determined to find it,” he announced in an uncharacteristically forceful speech to his chief colleague, a sharp-tongued research psychologist fourteen years his senior, Dr. Helen Schucman. Moved by Thetford’s commitment to a change in style, Schucman vowed to help him usher in a new era of cooperation with their peers, with a noticeable degree of success.
Over time the new outlook would prove largely ineffective in Thetford and Schucman’s own severely conflicted relationship. But the momentary alignment of these two professors’ sympathies seemed to catalyze an eruption of decidedly mystical energy on Schucman’s part that left the rational scientist in her groping for explanations. Unexpectedly, Schucman began to experience a recurrence of the symbolic visions she had witnessed in her youth—visions that had largely ceased in young adulthood when she bitterly ended her search for God.
But now, at the age of fifty-six, Schucman found herself involved in a dramatic progression of waking dreams and visions in which she was gravitating toward a mysterious duty she felt she had “somehow, somewhere, agreed to complete.” In these reveries she was sometimes spoken to by an inner “soundless voice” who clarified rhe meaning of various events for her. Over time this voice became an authoritative presence whom she referred to as the “Voice” (or jokingly as the “Top Sergeant”). She was not unaware of the Top Sergeant’s self-professed identity, but evaded acknowledging it.
In the late summer of 1965, Schucman experienced a vision in which she entered a cave by a windswept seashore and found a large, very old parchment scroll. Unrolling the aged parchment with some difficulty, she found a center panel bearing the simple words “GOD IS.” As she unrolled the scroll further, more writing was revealed to the left and right of the center panel. The familiar Voice told her that if she wanted, she could read the past on the left panel, and the future on the right — an apparent offering of clairvoyant capacities. But Schucman pointed to the words in the center of the scroll and said, “This is all I want.”
“You made it that time,” replied the Voice. “Thank you.”
After this vision Schucman’s anxiety lessened somewhat, and she thought with relief that her inner turbulence might be receding for good. At Thetford’s suggestion, she had begun recording her inner experiences, and she was about to make an entry on October 21 when the Voice spoke clearly in her mind. “This is a course in miracles,” it said with authority. “Please take notes.”
Schucman was soon on the phone to Thetford, her precarious emotional equilibrium once again threatened. She told Thetford what the Voice was suggesting to her and asked in panic, “What am I going to do?”
Thetford was calm and curious. “Why don’t you take down the notes? We’ll look them over in the morning and see if they make any sense, and throw them out otherwise. No one has to know.”
Thus began seven years of difficult extracurricular labor for Helen Schucman....
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